Neighbours up in arms about North Union pig farmer
February 13, 2015
Neighbours up in arms about North Union pig farmer

A farmer of North Union may soon have to find other means of making a living, after he was ordered by the Public Health Department (PHD) to close down his pig farming business by month’s end, following complaints from his neighbours and other villagers.

Mark Smart said his troubles intensified {{more}}recently after his brother and other family members complained about the stench and waste water from the pen running into their lands — destroying their plantain plants.

“They told me I have to get rid of them by the end of this February. I asked them what about the pigs that are expecting young ones and they told me I have to try get rid of the pigs,” Smart told SEARCHLIGHT when we visited his North Union home on Tuesday afternoon.

Smart’s neighbours, Lauren Smart and her son, Caswell, visited SEARCHLIGHT last week. They indicated that the problem with their neighbour has been ongoing for a number of years and feel it is high time that something is done about the situation.

“We have been experiencing the problem for a number of years in regards to the pig pen owned by Mark Smart, who is my husband’s brother. All the waste water from the pen has been running into our land and destroying my plantain field and other crops,” Lauren said, adding that their land spans approximately two acres and shares boundaries with Mark Smart’s portion of land.

The frustrated woman said she and her family have asked her brother-in-law on several occasions over the years to either close down the pen or try to prevent the water from running into their lands.

“Instead, he continue doing it and will always try to give us word,” she said.

However, Mark Smart says he has been trying his best to resolve the situation.

During our visit to his home, Mark took us to where the pig pen is situated in his backyard — just above his neighbours’ plantain field.

The pen was divided into several stalls, which Mark said houses 44 pigs.

“First, they complain about hog scent and as the time went on, the waste pipe I was using was too small and then I found I started getting a problem with the water,” Smart stated.

According to Smart, he applied to the Farmers Support Company (FSC) about six months ago for assistance with finances to help to rectify the situation, but to date, he has not received a reply.

“While I waiting, I upgraded the walls in the stalls to make sure the pigs could not jump out and create any problems for me. I used my own money to make the situation better,” he said.

He said at one point, the pig stable became overcrowded and members from the health department told him that he had too many pigs.

“They told me that people are complaining and said the pipe behind has a leak and I have to deal with that and that they are going to close me down,” he said, adding that on a weekly basis, he spends roughly $550 to take care of his pigs and still has to pay someone weekly to help him attend to his livestock.

He noted that he has since made efforts to put in a better drainage system so as to not allow the waste material or water to flow onto the neighbouring piece of land.

“They told me I need to get the water under control which I did. I changed the waste pipes to prevent any kind of noise in my head between me and my brother,” he added.

However, Smart stated that the problem was not resolved at once and there was still some leakage.

On further inspection, PVC pipes were observed running from different sections of the pen, all converging into a septic tank.

“You could see that I start to deal with the matter here. You could see they haven’t even been finished yet, but I took care of the water problem from running into their lands,”

But according to Lauren, the problem still persists.

She stated that she has lodged complaints at the health department about the matter, beginning some years ago, and as recently as last month, but nothing has been done about the situation.

“I went back again and this time I spoke to someone there who called Mark Smart and told him to take the water off my land and up to the time, nothing ain’t do,” the woman said.

“The water is burning out my plantains. When I saw the condition on Monday, I went to Human Rights and I went to the health department and they said they are working on it and it is a ticklish situation,” she related.

According to Lauren, she related her problem to representatives from the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agriculture who visited them at North Union.

“I show them the pipe he has coming from the land and it is not properly protected. He has all the water from the pen coming down in my land.”

She further added that it has been rough financially, because they have not been able to reap their produce and noted they have to repay a loan taken from the FSC.

“When the plantains get destroyed, I won’t be able to pay back the loan because I have nothing to show for it,” she stressed.

Her son, Caswell Smart, also a farmer, said several tracks have been created in their land by the heavy water.

“We are seeking redress. We are seeking help because it is overdue now. This thing is going on for a long time,” Caswell added.

“It’s just us alone and people in the church above the road does complain about the smell. The smell is definitely a problem in this residential area,” he said.

Another resident of the area, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that several persons who attend the church complain about the foul smell coming from his land.

“The pig pen is really a distraction. I know it’s affecting a lot of people. If he can’t manage them, he best get rid of them. People does come to the church and

does complain about the scent. Last week we had harvest and people had to be fanning the scent away.”

While stating that he is mindful that Smart has bills to meet and a family to provide for, the resident feels Smart has too many animals there.

“Something needs to be done about it. Something really needs to be done. I don’t mind someone rearing pigs, but he just has too many,” he said.

Another resident, who also wished for her name not to be mentioned, said her children have been falling ill, allegedly from the scent coming from his land.

“When I come out of my house, I actually have to close up the house because of the scent. I don’t know if they don’t smell and they living in the yard, but people always passing and have to cover their nose…”

With the mounting pressure, the pig farmer says he is now at his wits’ end about his next move. “They frustrate me really bad. If I do away with my pigs, I don’t know what I will do. I have been doing this for over 20 years. I came from humble beginnings. Even when they came and make a report about the situation, the water had already stopped running in their lands a long time,” Smart said.

“Plantains have so many diseases right now and I don’t see the damaged crops they are speaking about. Right now, I just keep looking all over for sale for the pigs. As I dey home today, I was waiting on people who supposed to come and buy some of the pigs from me,” he said.

Although he’s been told he has to get rid of the livestock, Smart still spoke about doing additional remedial work on the farm, to bring an end to what has been happening.

“Even that I have to get rid of the pigs, I still have to spend money to protect the water from going down in my brother’s place. Some of the water used to escape, but I took care of that,” he said.

When contacted, senior environmental health officer in the PHD, Carlos Wilson, when asked about the matter, told us that we had to speak with Neri James, head of the department, who, up to press time, was out of State.

Another employee of the PHD told us that the health officer who was dealing directly with the matter was out in the field.